This is an open thread.

127 Replies to “News Roundup: Zero Percent”

  1. For everyone’s information, since this is an open thread…

    Crowding on outbound Central Link trips has gotten ludicrous on nights when the frequency is reduced to 20 minutes due to the ongoing project to replace stolen copper wire on the elevated tracks in Tukwila.

    Yet ST continues to run single-car consists on those nights.

    Recently I rode on a 9:00 p.m. train where there were 7 bikes aboard a single car and standing passengers were smooshed into each other throughout the car.

    So I wrote ST to let them know of the overcrowding and to request two-car trains on the nights when frequency is reduced.

    I got back a boilerplate response telling me what they already do (reduce trains to singles on non-game nights after 7:40 p.m.) and telling me that it was normal in other systems to stand.

    Reading comprehension fail… sigh. No acknowledgment of the increased crowding due to the reduced frequency or the fact that I wasn’t complaining about standing, but about extreme crowding.

    How much would it actually cost to run a second car, anyway? There is no extra labor expense, just some incremental electricity and maintenance expense.

    1. It might be more acceptable to stand on Link if there were anywhere to stand! Instead, most of the space in each car is taken up by seats, walls, staircases, and luggage!

      Ah, the joys of going with an idiotic low-floor system rather than the industry standard for rapid transit: high-floor with third rail power.

      1. The hight of the floor has little to do with how much standing space the car has. Seating arrangements do.

        My biggest frustration with link is the 2+2 Seating on the lower section. It should be 2+1, at minimum, to increase standing space. Ideally, the seats would face inward from the walls like most larger subway systems.

        The next biggest frustration is people completely ignoring signs about where to put luggage, generally leaving it in the aisles or in the wheelchair area, clogging passenger flow and making life difficult for those whom that space is designated.

      2. Difficulty standing? Hmm. It’s true that the Link cars lack the number of “handhold” bars which are present in many rapid transit cars, now that I look at photos of the interior. However, they still have quite a lot — a car would have to be truly crowded for people to be unable to reach a grab bar. Is that happening?

      3. +1 Will Green, +1. The internal seating layout on the current cars simply fails compared to other systems. I get the BART-style conundrum the agency will face as it expands farther out; people from Lynnwood won’t want to stand all the way to downtown. But at the very least go to bench seating throughout the lower level part of the cars.

      4. Well, if people are standing in Lynnwood or Shoreline, the train will be packed in the U-district. On the other hand, Westlake-Lynnwood (28 minutes) is less than Westlake-SeaTac (37 minutes). People who are determined to sit can usually find a seat, if not all the way, then at least outside the (U-District)-Westlake-Stadium core. 15-20 minutes seems to be the maximum target time for standing, or at least that’s the argument used for changing the trolleybuses to sideways seating, that most people will only be on it for 20 minutes or less so standing is acceptable.

      5. Also, some people stand not because they have to, but because they’re only going a short distance, or it’s not worth the inconvenience to take off their backpack, or they’ve been sitting all day.

    2. The aggregate savings were estimated at close to $1/2 Million. But I agree, especially in Summer tourist season, 1 car trains are inconveniencing people.

      1. Half a million over the course of a year? That’s a rounding error in the budget. Surely there’s a better way to save $1300 a day.

      2. Mostly just a publicity stunt. It doesn’t save much if any money when you figure in the cost of having to break down the two car trains and then reassemble them for the morning. It mostly just fights the perception that Link is running around empty. ST wants it to be crowded; it proves we absolutely needed light rail.

  2. Thankfully, if polls are to be believed, McKenna will be relegated to fighting non-starter legal battles with the Feds and failing to represent State Officers in their official business.

  3. in addition to Capitol Hill … there are two 35 or so story apartment buildings under review (one on Summit & Seneca, one on Terry & Jefferson) … and Harborview will be tearing down one of their older buildings and replacing it … then there’s Yesler Terrace …

    The hills will be dusty for quite some time methinks

  4. For a possible mitigation for the ending of the RFA, people have been talking about a free shuttle downtown. One of the things people have been bringing up is that it would just become a roaming homeless shelter.

    Well Cleveland I just remembered has free “trolleys” downtown. See here:

    The whole point is that they look like special buses so they don’t just get relegated. If we did a 1st 3rd couplet we could even make it electric.

    Thoughts? Oviously this would need some capital, but the RTA gets corporate sponsors.

    1. Here in Seattle, we have a tour bus company that blares oldies music as they pass different local landmarks. In Cleveland they have free bus rides, and in my dreams I hope that sometimes the tourists, local commuters and hobos have the sense to collectively burst into song, singing Ohio tracks by folks like Ian Hunter or the Pretenders. That’s some flash mobbin’ that I could get into.

      I bet the duck buses around these parts have never had their crowd singing about “Living in sin with a safety pin.” Cleveland Rocks!

      – –

      Seattle has apparently had affordable downtown bus service since the days before the RFA. But this is a new era, and maybe it’s a new downtown. Things that worked in the past may not matter anymore. Maybe that city is gone.

    1. I can’t tell if that’s sarcastic or not…obviously systems should be constructed such that they’re wheelchair accessible w/o any manual intervention from an operator…

      1. My comment would have been better worded as

        I’m glad Link has level boarding, because this is the alternate.

      2. The video you linked to is an example of level boarding. The platform and the coach are level; no stairs are required.

      3. Cleveland’s bigger problem is the Red Line stations that were built in the sixties with stairs (only) for access to the platforms. They also have some stations shared between the Red and Blue/Green lines that have both high and low platforms. It’s been a long time since I’ve been through those stations, but they had steps between them.

        They’re going through station refurbishment to address ADA access.

  5. New building announced near West Seattle junction; 500 parking spaces for 350 units.

    Well, since I keep getting lectures about why it’s unreasonable to expect even RapidRide to facilitate wild urban nightlife fantasies like going to a movie and returning home without pulling your hair out while getting drenched for 30 minutes, why is the continued preference for car ownership a surprise?

    1. You know, back in the days before I even drove for Metro, when there were lots of half-hourly night buses, I worked swing shift and commuted home on one of them (the 307). I missed it quite often and had to wait for the next one. Since I knew the schedule, that didn’t require me to get drenched or pull my hair out… like a normal person would, I waited where it was dry and warm (and got a drink if I had long enough to wait).

      1. Woo! Going out to a 9:00 movie means getting home after midnight!

        But at least I can blow 29 minutes and $8 extra on a drink!

        Give it a rest, David.
        This is Metro, fucking up.
        This is Seattle, continuing to drive and continuing to build for automobiles.

      2. And if you’re going to live in Bothell, perhaps that’s a valid trade.

        I live in the fucking city. I put up with junkies everywhere and I overpay in rent and it would be hard to park a car if I had one. Non-excruciating city service is hardly too much to ask.

      3. I’d rather wait 25 minutes in a comfortable chair with a $3 beer, and then get on a half-full, fast-moving bus, than have the experience I did this past Saturday night, which I described to you in the RapidRide thread. Frequency is good, but it’s far from everything.

        And, no, nighttime service is not what it should be. That’s not a phenomenon unique to Seattle, and it’s not a reason to compound the misery by waiting in the rain for no reason and stewing in anger. Assuming you drink, I think that $3 beer might do you more than $3 worth of good.

        Incidentally, not everyone on the 307 went to Bothell. I lived just north of Northgate on what is now the 41. That wasn’t really “city” in 2000, but it will be by 2020.

      4. I’d rather wait 25 minutes in a comfortable chair with a $3 beer, and then get on a half-full, fast-moving bus.

        Really? Because even with the rain-delay Sox traffic (which the T can’t prepare for in the way it does for a normal 9-inning game ending), it never took you more than 15-20 minutes to squeeze on a vehicle and get to where you were going.

        So empty+infrequent > constant+crowded in your mind?

        Why do you think that a half-hourly bus might only be half full, even when on its way to a neighborhood with 50,000 residents?

        Maybe it’s because people avoid terrible transit like the plague.

        p.s. Nothing about RapidRide D will be “fast-moving”.
        p.p.s. The walk from RapidRide to central ballard is further than about half of those trips you took on the Green Line. I’ll get wet whether I like it or not.

      5. Really?

        Yes! In fact, it seems obvious.

        What are the choices here?

        1) Waiting out 10 extra minutes of delay in very pleasant conditions and enjoying a beer, then riding in civilized conditions.
        2) Getting on a vehicle within 15 minutes, but having to push and shove my way through impossibly crowded stations, only to spend my entire ride shoved against a wall with beer breath in my face while moving slower than I could walk.

        You are very focused on frequency above all, and hate to wait even a few minutes. Good transit is more than frequency, it’s also speed, reliability, and pleasantness. The Green Line, for example, is extremely frequent but is cosmically terrible transit.

        RR D is only middling from a speed perspective, but it will be nice to ride, and still faster per mile than a lot of other buses here and elsewhere that run more frequently.

      6. David, I really think you’re missing that RapidRide is halving service and also adding a significant walk for tens of thousands of Ballardites.

        And the schedule isn’t one single second faster at night!

        Let repeat this in the form of a list.

        1) Half the buses
        2) Same QA detour
        3) No faster
        4) Longer, darker walk

        I don’t know what’s blowing my mind more: that Metro finds this acceptable or that STB commenters find this acceptable.

      7. I’m all with you on most of these debates, dp, but I do notice that many of your anecdotal nightmare trips seem to involve being unprepared for the possibility that it might rain in Seattle. ;-)

      8. Smile and a chuckle, Jason.

        Really, though, it’s not about the rain.

        It’s about the expectation that a longer, less pleasant walk to or from a service that is demonstrably worse is somehow par for the course!

      9. “The Green Line, for example, is extremely frequent but is cosmically terrible transit.”

        Which Green Line are you talking about? Seattle Monorail’s proposed Green Line?

        Boston’s Green Line is so frequent that it’s also reliable (there’s always another trolley coming along). It is kind of slow, but it tends to take as long as advertised from station to station. It connects the right places. It’s extremely popular and for good reason. It’s good public transportation.

      10. Yes, I’m talking about the Boston Green Line. It’s very frequent, but…

        1) it’s often slower than walking in the underground core
        2) even outside the core, it stops every block or two and then also has no TSP
        3) almost regardless of time of day, it’s packed, often to the degree that it’s extremely unpleasant to use
        4) contrary to your assertion, it is somewhat reliable where all four lines overlap, but each individual line is very unreliable

        It’s frequent, awful transit.

      11. I don’t know what to say.

        No long-term Bostonian would argue that the Green Line has issues, or that it’s the least ideal of Boston’s four major subway lines.

        But anyone who criticizes the Green Line for crowding on the interlined segments and for unreliability on the non-interlined segments — while simultaneously extolling Seattle’s 71, 72, and 73 — probably doesn’t spend much time on University Way (never mind trying to get to Ravenna, Wedgwood, or Maple Leaf).

      12. I’d take the Green Line over any bus in the world any day of the year. Yes, I’ve only been in Boston intermittently since the 1980s, but the Green Line *still works*.

        Yes, it’s overcrowded. So’s the London Underground.

        I recall just a few years ago making a Green Line-Red Line-*bus bridge past construction*-Red Line trip from Hynes (yes, I know, that’s in the overlap section) to Porter. Other people were waiting for the #1 bus, which is direct. They were *an hour later*.

        There’s an attitudinal difference in the operation of buses versus subways. Even when the subway is *closed and given a bus bridge* it gets better service than the buses!

    2. It’s good that DP focuses on frequency, and eliminating bottlenecks like long waits at turns, and insisting that a 5-minute subway is what we ultimately need for Ballard-south and Ballard-east. But he’s getting hung up on one gap in frequency because it affects him personally. Yes, RapidRide is not what Metro promised. But other people on central urban streets have been suffering with half-hourly or hourly frequency for decades and still are. Metro has a general problem with frequency, not just a Ballard problem with frequency or a RapidRide problem with frequency.

      1. I agree completely that it’s good to push the system and demand more, and also that we need more frequency in a lot of places. In particular, the recent trend toward cutting half-hourly routes to hourly at night is a disaster. Hourly service in general is almost pointless, and the system is a lot less useful at night than it was in 2000 when I was riding home from work at 11:30 p.m.

        I just sometimes choke on d.p.’s level of hyperbole, and on his insistence that 1) we in Seattle have a total monopoly on making transit suck and 2) Metro never gets anything at all right.

      2. Mike: This would be the equivalent of deleting the 14, the 10, and the 12, while offering absolutely no improvements whatsoever to the 49.

        Yeah, I’m a bit miffed about it.

        David: Metro never gets anything at all right. Admission is the first step to recovery.

      3. There’s that hyperbole again.

        Just as one tiny example… that 307 I talked about, now divided into the 41 and 522… a terrific bus route both before and after the restructuring.

        I’ve never been on a bus in an East Coast city that worked as well as those routes. They travel a long way very quickly, have a long span of service with decent frequency, and capacity and demand are pretty well matched.

        Other high-volume routes I’d single out as working very well include the 30/31/new 32, the 54/55/RR C, the 120/121/122 combo, and the U-District expresses. Let’s focus our fire rather than spraying bullets indiscriminately. Where Metro really needs the most work is on speed and reliability in and near the downtown core, the ID, and Capitol Hill; those are the routes with the worst problems.

      4. The 40 is not through-routed. It’s laying over at 6th and Atlantic by Central Base along with the 41.

      5. I’d single out …the U-District expresses.

        We clearly have a very different definition of “working very well”.

      6. I guess we must. Those buses are reliable, very frequent, and (within the limits of the city’s topography) very quick, particularly when they can use the I-5 express lanes.

        Yes, Link will be a huge improvement. But until we mustered the political will to dig a tunnel under Capitol Hill, there really wasn’t a better way to do it than the 71X/72X/73X.

        Note I’m only talking about the expresses, not the awful 71/72/73 locals, which are slow and overwhelmed by demand.

      7. d.p. is right to be mad. Ballard is getting screwed right now despite its demand for evening and night service and its general capacity issues during the day, in a way that’s symptomatic of Metro’s general failure to provide evening and night service where it’s needed. Finally RR goes some place with real need and real potential and it makes things worse.

        The Aurora line has similar stakes. The status quo has some really terrible nighttime schedule gaps, made worse because the schedule isn’t staggered with that of the 5. Metro could make things a lot better, and win extra riders, or it could pull a Ballard-style screwjob on a fairly important corridor. It really matters.

      8. Being an open thread, I just wanted to +1 d.p.’s constant points about Ballard. I can’t think of another neighborhood that’s lost as much as they have. Remember, the Monorail should have been running for a few years by now, zipping them straight downtown. Losing more bus service under in the name of BRT has to hurt. The density that they added is still being built, probably on the hope that Seattle will figure out a way to move people.

        Yet despite all of that, Ballard has managed to remain reasonably happy ;-)

      9. “Losing more bus service under in the name of BRT has to hurt.”

        This is perhaps the key here: the injury is bad, but adding insult to injury is worse.

        So, losing more bus service in the name of “We are cutting the budget and you don’t provide enough political support” would be one thing; losing service while being told that you’re getting “Bus Rapid Transit” is just… well… an insult.

      10. Outside of the late-evening gaps d.p. is focused on… which are admittedly bad, and really should be fixed by making RR D 15-minute service and the 40 half-hour service until 1 a.m…. I’m honestly not sure I see what Ballard, other than 32nd NW where no one rides the bus anyway, is losing.

        Right now, during the day, Ballard has two 20-minute routes and a 30-minute route which is not coordinated with the 20-minute routes. It will be replacing those three routes with two better-spaced 15-minute routes. Supplemental peak-hour express service will stay essentially the same; in addition, there will be some new bidirectional peak-hour local service that wasn’t there before.

        In the early and mid-evening, three 30-minute routes, one of which is not well spaced, are being replaced by one 15-minute route and one 30-minute route. This is a shift of some service from “downtown” Ballard to 15th… but more residents are centered around 15th than “downtown” Ballard, and that is only going to intensify with the next round of development projects. That is why 15th was chosen as the RR corridor in the first place.

        The real losers from this process aren’t in Ballard, but in far west Queen Anne and Interbay. And they’re not coming out all that far behind.

      11. One other note… I don’t think we’ve heard the last of the 61. As set up right now it’s a pretty useless route. But I have a feeling something will be done with it in the RR E restructure, particularly if Metro finally manages to can the 26. Another useful connection may yet come to downtown Ballard.

      12. …and really should be fixed by making RR D 15-minute service and the 40 half-hour service until 1 a.m

        While both would be ideal, I’d be perfectly content with either/or.

        In fact, that’s what I’d been presuming would happen, ever since I saw the RapidRide schedule a few months ago and noticed its half-hourliness after 11pm.

        “Oh,” I said. “RapidRide is only running the 15’s schedule after 11. They must be planning to keep whatever replaces the 18 half-hourly as well, and will run it on the :15s and the :45s.”

        No such luck. An hourly, unstaggered, totally pointless bone to one of the busiest urban centers in the entire city! Never in a million did I think they would screw Ballard so badly.

        …but more residents are centered around 15th than “downtown” Ballard… That is why 15th was chosen as the RR corridor in the first place.

        Categorically untrue. 15th was chosen because it presently has marginally higher daytime ridership, for a variety of reasons (including but not limited to the location of the high school), and because it provides the straightest connection to Crown Hill and a Holman Road terminus.

        North of Leary and south of 65th, however, the residential, commercial, entertainment, and pedestrian centers of gravity are disproportionately and heavily weighted to the 18’s alignment. This will not change anytime soon.

        When non-Ballard residents ask about the future possibility of taking RapidRide to Ballard, they are invariably shocked to discover that it will bypass every place they want to go.

        Right now, during the day…

        The daytime changes are basically a wash. Judging from the experience of the 75 — there is no route on which the effect of the chasm between great drivers and lousy drivers is more stark — the 40 will be “15-minute service” on paper only.

        In the early and mid-evening…

        The evening 18 and 17 are better staggered than you think. The 18 comes at around :06 and :31. The 17 comes at :44. They’re generally on time. So you’re never waiting more than 25 minutes at present in central Ballard.

        But if it’s a nightmare to get home after 10, who cares how good service is at 7? That’s the problem with writing off the late evening.

        Nobody will choose the transit option they know for a fact will screw them on the return trip!

      13. I’ll agree with you on entertainment and commercial, which is just one more reason the idea of an hourly 40 at night is breathtakingly stupid.

        And back when the Ballard boom started you were right about residential. But not anymore. All of the high-density new construction is along, or very close to, the 15th corridor, and *much* more is coming. Meanwhile, the Leary/24th corridor has a lot of older low- to medium-density housing that isn’t going anywhere soon, with just a couple of new high-density developments. The residential center of gravity in Ballard is already closer to 15th than 24th and is moving further that way every month.

        Of course, there’s a flip side to that… the choice of 15th as the RR corridor says that Metro takes commuters to downtown more seriously than visitors to Ballard (or anyone else). And, sure enough, the late-night schedule proves it. Why? Because Metro management are in their 50s and 60s. They all commute to downtown during the day and stay home at night.

      14. The residential center of gravity in Ballard is already closer to 15th than 24th and is moving further that way every month.

        I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. I’ve lived here for the last five years of changes; I’ve observed them closely. This is one of those things that gets said frequently on STB that is simply not true.

        You are picturing those two large buildings flanking 15th on Market (where Denny’s and Sunset Bowl each were) and extrapolating incorrectly.

        Even if you only looked at mega-block developments, those two buildings wither in comparison to the gigantic thing that’s about to be built where Archie McPhee used to be. But it’s not just the megablocks. It’s the 4-story 3-lot replacements. It’s the in-filling, the townhouse-boxing and cottage-squeezing of varying quality. The squeezing in of more people who are not aiming just to live denser, but specifically wishing to live an easy walk from this neighborhood center.

        Nearly 100% of that infilling has been in the strip between 15th and 24th, and within that strip, new additions are weighted to the west of 20th. Now look at the other halves of the walksheds: a surprising amount of new stuff has been squeezed in between Market & 59th, 24th & 28th. East of 15th, meanwhile, there has been little change in decades, and single-family is the norm on the vast majority of blocks from there to 8th.

        And 24th is not done from a mid-rise perspective, either. The paint is still barely dry above QFC and on “Danielle”, but the former library has a development sign on it, and the Viking is reportedly not long for this world. On the corresponding stretch of 15th, Ballard Market and St. Alphonsus with its parking lots and the brake shops and the drive though banks aren’t going anywhere.

        And then there’s south of Market, where far more people than most seem to realize (including myself) live in “the triangle” west of 17th, all of which is oriented towards the 18th walkshed. The blocks that flank 15th south of Market are the land that gentrification forgot — the low-scale, light-industrial businesses are mostly thriving, though little-visited by transit patrons, and none of them are going anywhere any time soon.

        Don’t believe anything I just wrote? A picture is worth a thousand words. The right side of that image has a very long way to go to shift the center of gravity away from the left. Two buildings on Market aren’t going to cut it.

      15. I’ve always thought of Leary Way as the center of Ballard. The neighborhood follows the Ship Canal not the north south street grid. My brother-in-law lives on NE 15th. That street will remain a commercial thoroughfare. It’s like living on Aurora.

      16. I wonder if DP would like to organize a Ballard density walk someday, perhaps at the same time as the Ballard art walk.

      17. That sounds like a fun idea, Mike.

        No other place in Seattle offers such a mélange of period architectures or such surprising juxtapositions of uses, and after 5 years in central Ballard, there are many off-beaten-path examples I’d love to highlight.

        This likely wouldn’t be possible until well after our extended summer ends — my need to prioritize my locational future over my locational present has been made even more pressing by Metro’s latest assault on my quality of life. But in mid-November, perhaps? Especially if there’s a weekend predicted to have decent bundled-up walking weather.

  6. I notice they’re building 422 parking spaces at the Capital Hill station site. I get that there will be some retail there, but adding this much parking for people living right over a Link station in the most dense part of Seattle still makes me cringe.

      1. (sigh) It isn’t the first time. I blame the pronunciation. Maybe I’ll start enunciating the “o” when I say it.

    1. Considering Capitol Hill’s parking issues, I can envision some serious abuse of those parking spaces by non neighborhood residents when we visit for dining, clubbing, theater, etc. Monthly parking permits?

  7. The buildings in the 11th Ave/Union/Madison triangle were demolished within the last 24 hours. Does anyone know what’s going to be built there?

      1. 90-100 units of housing

        18 vehicles

        Oh my God, someone actually understands density.

        QUICK! We need an project-killing injection of Seattle Process, stat!

      2. Someone will complain that the parking situation nearby will get worse because of course every potential tenant will obviously have a car or two.

      3. I am startled.

        The location certainly appears to have lots of trolleybus service, and will be close to the new streetcar. On paper it’s a very decent location to be without a car.

      4. I know you’re not making that argument, but I just want to be clear. That issue isn’t significant in any neighborhood with time-limited parking. Few residents have enough time to run down and feed the meter every 2 hours while they’re home, and enough organization to make sure they never leave their car on the street past the time that ticketing begins.

        I’d argue it’s not a good argument in any neighborhood – they have just as much right to park their car on our city streets as the existing neighbors do. But existing residents have more than a right to that parking, they have a prerogative, a right due to power. This power comes from our Seattle process.

  8. Not misleading at all to post this:

    New building announced near West Seattle junction; 500 parking spaces for 350 units.

    when you know that there is retail also in the building, including a grocery store. So, no, there aren’t 500 parking spaces for 350 units, there are 500 parking spaces for the entire building. You only need to look up the street from this proposed project to Capco Plaza to see what that looks like.

    1. Agreed, but it’s still too much. Thinking about other grocery stores near the Junction (Safeway, QFC, Trader Joe’s), there are typically 30-50 parking spaces in use at any given heavy shopping time for each store. Assuming they set as many as 80 aside for the store, you’ve still got 420 parking spaces for 350 units. If you reduced that to one spot per unit, you could build 5-10 extra units with the saved space. And that’s still very generous with parking.

    2. Get us a Seattle Subway line to downtown and this won’t make sense any more. As it is, West Seattle is still SOV country and these spots will be needed. *sigh*

  9. Routes have been closed around the system, including the special shuttles to the upcoming Western Washington Fair … could provide a glimpse of things to come if special event bus service cannot transport the tourists set to flood the area for the 2015 United States Open golf tournament set for Chambers Bay

    Mmmm, the PGA can’t afford to pay PT for the bus service. Maybe the ballot measure should be asking to tap Tiger for bus fair to the tournament?

    1. Unless you’re making a connection in Chicago, Seattle or Portland, a late arrival doesn’t matter that much. If you’re stuck on the train, at least it’s in relative comfort, as long as the air-conditioning or heat stays on. And there can be “scenic” advantages. We once had to wait in Wolf Point, MT for three hours while they cleared up a freight derailment west of town. It was 105 out, but pleasant, if boring, on the train. We ended up leaving Spokane four hours late, but were then treated to a rare daylight crossing of the Cascade Mountains.

    1. And yet again, a dumb, slow streetcar to Ballard is casually identified as the default/best/only solution.

      They’ll probably build it, then shut it down at 9:00 (7 on Sundays).

      God, I’m so over this city.

      1. I don’t see that in the article. I see:
        * money to study a transit and pedestrian bridge across the canal

        That’s it for Ballard. Notice he doesn’t say this funds streetcar studies to Ballard at all. He does mention the TMP study of “rail” to Ballard.

        I’m excited to hear from the Seattle Subway campaign about this. Could the canal bridge help?

      2. The TMP corridor is the streetcar, and he talks about explicitly in his post:

        “A rail line from downtown to Ballard, via Fremont…” with estimates topping out at “26,000F people”. No matter what nods he makes to a “light rail” option, all of his notions and numbers come straight out of the streetcar-boosters’ plan.

        As for the new bridge, he’s referring to the option for a new crossing at 3rd Ave W by SPU, and it is for the streetcar. But since it would have to be a drawbridge, with an operator, and since it misses central Fremont, it’s going to be declared “too expensive” and “less useful”, and will be dismissed, sending the streetcar back onto the mess of the Fremont Bridge.

        That’s the cheap shit being which the mayor is throwing his weight.

      3. That is the question, whether the city will be amenable to a Ballard subway after this (presumably slow) streetcar, or whether it’ll say that’s enough and we can’t afford it. I don’t see anything in this article that answers the question either way. The most troubling sentence is, “We reached an agreement with Sound Transit to accelerate planning on the Ballard line by three years.” Does “the Ballard line” merely mean “this Ballard line”, or does it mean “the one main Ballard line forever, precluding a faster subway”. But the fact remains that the TMP shows a second HCT line to Ballard at 15th, and the city has not said it couldn’t be a subway. (Of course, 15th is just a preliminary concept, so we could argue for an alterative going under Queen Anne.) If there’s any evidence that the city or ST is shutting out the possibility of a later subway in addition to the streetcar — rather than just speculation about it — I’d like to hear it.

      4. The evidence accumulates from the fact that every time the mayor or the city council are asked about the proviso that was recently lifted — the lifting that allowed the city to expedite study of “various options” — all the details they offer point to their intent to push for the streetcar plan.

        And when SDOT is asked, they explicitly state “Ballard is getting the streetcar”.

        These are not people who are thinking about or working toward a subway, and they’re not planning to use whatever is built anyway, so why do they care if it’s fast or connective or works in any way?

        (p.s. Corridor 10 in the TMP is RapidRide. No more, no less. It is not one of that document’s highlighted “HCT line”. Don’t delude yourself that SDOT is considering things it isn’t. You have to make them.)

  10. I’m probably going to regret trying to make this point, but here goes.
    If we only look at transit in the Puget Sound and forget about all the institutional barriers and sub-divisions (agencies, sub-area equity, etc), in other words like a non-transit person perceives transit in general, then we rank very high in public support compared to other major cities.
    d.p. has illuminated a very valid point when considered in the isolation of just one area and one agency. How would he fair if we had to distribute our transit resources using a much broader set of regional criteria. Much better, I think.
    Let’s take ST’s commuter rail from Everett to Seattle using just round numbers to make the point. Each of the 500 rail riders cost ST about $30 a trip. A trip from Ballard to downtown costs Metro about $3, or 1/10 as much.
    Now suppose we could cancel the trip for those ST riders and give the hours to Metro to provide rides for an additional 5,000 daily trips. Aside from the fact that ST wouldn’t or couldn’t do it, isn’t having 4,500 fewer ‘Non-SOV’ trips better from a regional perspective?
    I’ve tried to make the case that we are in effect ‘Robbing Peter to Pay Paul’ in many of our convoluted transit decisions based on home turf and political fiefdoms, rather than taking the big transit pot and distributing the funds where they move the most bodies – not only today and tomorrow, but far into the future.
    OK, now you can pile on.

    1. I don’t think you’ll get many here piling on. Fundamentally, that’s a great strategy. But politically, it’ll never work. Thanks to concepts like sub-area equity, you can’t just take money from Sounder and give it to Ballard. Voters were told that they’d keep their own transit money in their area, and that’s what ST has to do – ST1 and ST2 might not have passed without such compromises.

      1. So the only way d.p. gets any relief is to produce more service hours for Ballard. That means lathering up almost every other area with similar goodies, so that all the boats rise at the same time. In effect, the cost to fix Ballard ends up costing 10 times as much, and the really insanely expensive transit rides go on in perpetuity.
        Are we so bound to a vote from 1996 and 2008 that the shackles can never come off until all the bonds are retired in 2053?
        That’s depressing just thinking about it.

      2. “lathering up almost every other area with similar goodies, so that all the boats rise at the same time”
        Not necessarily. That’s only true for Sound Transit, which is a regional agency. Their core focus is connecting cities together. And they’re the only agency with the sub-area equity mandate.

        Looking just a Metro, they’re still bound by politics, but not law. They can certainly move around service where it makes sense. They used to have a self-imposed 20:40:40, where Seattle would only get 20% of new service so the rest of the county could catch up. Thank god that died. But the political incentive to spread service around is still there. Only 1/3 of King County’s voters live in Seattle, so if politicians want to be re-elected they have to appease the suburban voters.

        This brings us to the local level. Unlike most cities, we don’t have a local transit agency. I strongly support changing this. If, say, SDOT took over Seattle-only service, we could raise our own taxes as high as we want* to provide the service we need. Yes, there’d still be some pressures to spread this service throughout the city, but it’s no longer a fight with large constituants like “the suburbs”, you now have small groups fighting for their neighborhoods which are much easier to dismiss in the name of the greater good.

        * as long as our state allows it

      3. Assuming the State would make a special exception to raise the taxing limit for the City of Seattle you’d still have to make up for the loss of suburban subsidies just to get to the break even point. And there’s no way the county is going to let Metro be left holding the bag for all the existing retirement obligations so the City would likely have to come up with a scheme to pay that off as well as all the up front capital expenses (buses, maintenance facilities, offfic space, etc.). The City would also be stuck with all the ETBs which are going to need wholesale replacement in short order. Sounds like a case of be careful what you wish for.

      4. “make up for the loss of suburban subsidies” Nah. That’s an accounting trick that counts part of every suburban trip to Seattle as Seattle service. Those won’t be in Seattle’s network. Unlike the suburbs we have excellent farebox recovery.

        The rest of your points are fine ones, but there are fair ways of resolving all of them. We’d take our portion of burden, just like we are now.

        And we’ll wait until the ETB’s are replaced ;-) (really, these things are budgeted for – even if they weren’t replaced, there’s a budget we’ve all paid into to replace them that we should get back).

      5. an accounting trick that counts part of every suburban trip to Seattle as Seattle service.

        Ah, you want to employ the accounting trick that allows the North Subarea to get away with paying zero for ST Express service. OK, but it doesn’t change history and that Seattle Transit was broke and only survived as Metro by drawing in a larger tax base. Why not start out small and just form an agency that takes on new projects? Start out with the George Benson Streetcars. If Issaquah can run it’s own streetcar line then surely Seattle can.

      6. It wasn’t just Seattle Transit that was broke, the suburban bus companies were too, probably in worse condition. Could Seattle Transit have survived on its own with its own sales tax? We may never know. What we do know is that in its last year, when ridership hit rock bottom, only 62% of Seattle Transit’s operating costs were covered by passenger fares, the rest with loans and grants.

      7. Matt,

        That’s just not true. All the peak-only routes into Seattle were fully charged to the suburban subarea. It’s only the all-day routes (255, 150, 271, etc) that were 50% charged to Seattle. Seattle residents get a lot of value from that, so I’d imagine they’d still end up paying for a lot of it in some fashion.

      8. mic,

        What’s depressing is that any time there’s some sort of Metro budget problem your first and only remedy is to raid the rail services that are our long-term way out of this mess.

        There are dozens of things that could be done inside the Metro budget to make this work.

      9. North Sounder, very much unlike ST’s other rail projects, isn’t a long-term way out of anything. It’s an expensive white elephant. Unfortunately, we’ve built a bunch of stations for it, and bought trainsets… it’s hard to go back now.

      10. the suburban bus companies were too, probably in worse condition.

        I believe the privately run Metropolitan Transit Corporation was the only thing on the eastside and consisted of just one route. Ironically, there was probably as good transit connections between DT Bellevue and DT Redmond then than there is now. Seattle Transit’s problem wasn’t it’s operational expenses it was it’s debt largely piled up in retirement benefits. Same thing that’s got Portland on the ropes today; not fully accounting for future debt obligations. It had already failed when bailed out by the creation of Metro.

      11. @Martin: Probably because it’s the low lying fruit. OK I’ll pick on Metro as you suggest.
        Cancel routes 925,912,661,265,224 and 200, costing Metro 1.6 mil/yr, and have a worse cost per trip than N.Sounder does. Those routes carry 34,079 riders per year, or about 130 rider/day serving 65 people if you count both both ways.
        N Sounder is subsidizing 287,000 rides/yr with the same crappy metrics that Metro’s worst 6 routes do.
        Yes, let’s not pick on a rail line that’s under performing when we could have 1/10 the impact and go after a handful of bus riders.
        When rail starts to cost less than buses, (like everyone takes as a given), then I’ll quit picking on them. Until then, they’re fair game.

      12. mic,

        Or maybe when you’re comparing extremely long lines to extremely short ones, you can’t just use one metric as your magic totem.

      13. mic, Metro beat you there. It already cancelled the 925 and 912, and wants to cancel the 224 and 200. The 661 is an internal Metro route which carries drivers for storage trippers — if you cancelled it, you’d also have to turn the storage trippers into normal trippers, driving up costs. Not sure what the 265 is doing on that list as it’s a major commuter route that is getting more service in September.

        There’s yet more low-lying fruit, especially in Bellevue and Kirkland, but the fact that North Sounder is in that kind of company — doing much, much worse than a lot of bus routes that cruise around the Eastside nearly empty all day — really tells you what a bad idea it was. But now we’re probably stuck with it.

      14. “The City would also be stuck with all the ETBs which are going to need wholesale replacement in short order”

        My understanding is the ETBs will be replaced by 2013 or 2014. There’s no way a structural change to Metro could happen by then. Nobody has written a ballot measure, or analyzed the finances to ensure both parts would be viable, or asked the state for any authority that would be required, plus it would take a year after approval to do the actual restructuring.

      15. I’m guilty of just sorting the last route performance report by subsidy per rider without tracking down each route. (BTW, where’s 2011? It’s damn near 2013 – Hello?)
        My original point starting was this. We are hog-tied to funky jurisdictional, agency, sub-area and political sub-divisions that slice up pies in perverse ways.
        If we take the entire pie, and look at moving more people for the same money, while providing basic service for others, the splits start to take on different outcomes.
        Transit, in general, is not underfunded here. Certain segments are being starved, while some on the other end of the spectrum could use a whacking – rail, bus, or vanpool – doesn’t really matter to me. Getting SOV’s off the road should be the deciding factor.
        I just picked on N.Sounder because it’s so obviously wasteful, and makes the point.

      16. Sure, we could have the whole state subsidize urban Seattle transit service– that’s where it’s most cost-effective.

        Write your representative — and good luck with that.

      17. “My original point starting was this. We are hog-tied to funky jurisdictional, agency, sub-area and political sub-divisions that slice up pies in perverse ways.”

        This is a national problem. The US has some of the most persistent, and bizarre, municipal borders in the world.

        And don’t get me started on the STATE borders, which are actually worse, and carve the NY metro area into three states, the Philly metro area into three states, and the DC metro area into two states and a “taxation without representation” territory. Other metro areas cut in two by state boundaries include and are not limited to
        St Louis
        Kansas City

    2. No piling on here, just complete agreement. Transit shouldn’t be doled out like party favors, it should be placed where it is most needed and can make the difference for the most people. From a regionwide perspective, anything else is wasting money.

      Unfortunately, voters rarely take that wide a view. Instead they say boneheaded things like “Why are MY tax dollars funding something for THOSE OTHER people?”

      Unfortunately, north Sounder is already built. But there are dollars that can be moved to gain more effectiveness… specifically, Eastside bus service dollars, particularly from west and central Bellevue, where there is a lot of service on sparsely used secondary routes.

    3. If you cancelled North Sounder, the money would stay in Snohomish County. So revising your proposal, the money would need to go to Everett Transit and Community Transit for service in southwest Snohomish County. I doubt it would go to Metro.

      1. I wonder what the outlay is, capital and operations, for N. Sounder vs. Tacoma Link. Would Everett have any use for a parking shuttle streetcar?

      2. ST’s money would not automatically go to ET or CT. But theoretically, if Sounder North were cancelled, there would be money for capital projects or bus routes within the county. First you’d have to give Sounder’s riders an alternative, which would mean more peak-express runs if the existing buses are full. Then perhaps ST could take over Swift and fill in the frequency attrition, and plan another Swift route or two radiating from Lynnwood TC (to Everett, Mukilteo, or Edmonds, or an Edmonds-Mountlake Terrace route). Then Snohomish County would be ready for the Lynnwood Extension.

        But it’s highly unlikely ST will cancel Sounder North unless ST3 directs it to.

      3. Replacing north Sounder with more SnoCo ST Express service would still be a good outcome. And that just shows how bad north Sounder is — normally canceling an already-built rail line in favor of increasing bus service would be pure stupidity.

      4. Mike,
        It was mic’s suggestion to give ST money away to the agency. I was just trying to point out that if ST was ever in the mood to give money away by eliminating North Sounder, it would not be to Metro.

      5. To carry this perversion of agency’s ‘keeping THEIR money’ (seems like it all belonged to the taxpayers one step earlier), consider this:
        ULink will end up cancelling several Metro routes. ST pays, MT wins, less those hours they plow back into connecting service, and no it’s not 1:1.
        N.Link likewise with the 41, 66 and others – lots more $$ flowing from one to the other agency.
        N.Sounder doesn’t stop in King Co mostly because N.Sub Area would have to pay for a share of capital (1/3 bil) and operations, plus insane subsidies per rider. So no stops = No Pay.
        Hey d.p., here’s another chance for Ballard to get screwed out of transit, or at least some $$ to buy more.
        Too bad taxpayers don’t get an itemized check in return for their donations, ranked in effectiveness to reduce congestion. It might be an eye opener for some.

      6. Mic, what you’re failing to realize is who brought the pie to the pot luck. If you show up with a dish how’d you feel if you’re told, “too bad we brought more people than pie so you don’t get any”?

      7. Bernie, that’s shortsighted. If the effectiveness of transit is maximized throughout the region, the region as a whole will benefit the most. Yes, that probably means some Eastsiders will pay some amount of operating costs for transit in Seattle. In return, they’ll get help from Seattle with big capital projects, and, more importantly, more economic growth, which benefits the whole region.

      8. “To carry this perversion of agency’s ‘keeping THEIR money’ (seems like it all belonged to the taxpayers one step earlier), consider this:
        ULink will end up cancelling several Metro routes. ST pays, MT wins, less those hours they plow back into connecting service, and no it’s not 1:1”

        It’s not that it’s their money, it’s that it was raised under different taxing authorities for different purposes.

        It was known all along that Metro would gain back service hours when Link replaced the express runs. In fact, that was intentional, because the area needs a whole lot of feeders, and Metro has no way to pay for them except by reallocating these hours. So it’s a win-win.

    4. Maybe a better approach would be to make Sounder North a more attractive route to attract more riders and drive down the cost per rider.

      Here’s a couple of possibilities for that:

      Add a station between Edmonds and King Street Station; either in Ballard or around Broad Street. There is a mention of this in the ST2 plan.

      I’ve wondered if an effective way to increase the utilization of the Sounder North vehicles would be to through-run some trains onto the south segment. These are shorter trains, so if the last Everett train in the morning became a reverse-peak trip to Tacoma or Lakewood, then turn around as a shoulder of peak trip to Seattle. In the afternoon, it could run south as a before peak trip to Tacoma/Lakewood, then go as a reverse-peak trip to Seattle and continue north to Everett. In addition to increasing utilization of the rolling stock, this would enable trips that couldn’t be done before.

    1. An idea like this is very useful for handling late night trips when buses are hourly at best.

      One suggestion to make it even better – instead of relying entirely on commercial car services, let regular drivers who happen to be going where your going plug into the system and make a few bucks on a trip they need to make anyway.

      Eventually, when everyone has smartphones and it becomes possible to use them to get rides off driverless taxis, I can easily see this replacing nearly all bus service after 10 PM, or in outlying suburban areas. While I don’t see a driverless taxis scaling well enough to replace trunk lines like Link, I definitely see them complementing Link by providing people with easy last-mile options that are much cheaper than a taxi, yet much more convenient than an hourly, winding, connecting bus.

  11. About 5:00 this evening, I was headed from Seattle Center to Fremont. I saw a #30 bus on Mercer in complete and total gridlock. For fun, instead of getting on, I walked to Fremont right over the top of Queen Anne Hill. When I got there, I checked OneBusAway to see how walking compared with the bus. Turns out that in the time it took to walk all the way from Seattle Center to Fremont, the #30 bus was still stuck on Mercer!

    I pity everyone in Fremont who was stuck waiting for that bus to get to the U-district or Sand Point.

    1. And that’s why that segment of the 30 is going away and being replaced by the 32. U-District to Sand Point commuters are in for a nice surprise.

  12. Americans Want More Public Transit Options, Not More Highways, Study Finds

    A bipartisan poll of 800 Americans shows that most want more transportation options, think their community would benefit from improved public transport […]

    Americans sound like they are ready and willing to support public transport, according to these stats:

    59 percent of Americans feel the transportation system is “outdated, unreliable and inefficient.”

    63 percent think traffic should be addressed by improving public transit.

    68 percent support local investment in public transport improvements, including 39 percent supporting it “strongly.”

    64 percent say their community would benefit from an expanded and improved public transportation system, such as rail and buses.

    Clean Technica (

    So, good and bad news for transitistas.

    People want more transit, although many because they don’t want to be stuck in traffic. At the same time, there seems to be dissatisfaction with transit as built so far.

    1. there seems to be dissatisfaction with transit as built so far.

      Not “as built”… “as currently exists.”

      Of course people are dissatisfied with it. Much of it is old and creaky because it’s been starved of investment for most of the last 30 years.

      They want it to be renewed and improved.

      The heartening thing from this survey is that it shows a substantial shift toward transit from the roads-only or roads-first position.

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